Hard days ahead says Air­drie chief

But Bal­lan­tyne in­sists ship stead­ied for now

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - News - Mark Pirie

Air­drie chair­man Jim Bal­lan­tyne ad­mit­ted it had been a “pretty s***” time for the club since Tom Wother­spoon an­nounced he was step­ping down last month – but he has called on the Di­a­monds fans to rally round the team.

Bal­lan­tyne was speak­ing at a meet­ing hosted by the Air­drieo­ni­ans Sup­port­ers Trust at the town’s Work­ing Men’s So­cial Club af­ter a week of tur­moil.

He re­vealed Wother­spoon made a com­mit­ment to fund “a lit­tle bit” of the club – but was at pains to point out that the cash avail­able is “sub­stan­tially less” than last year.

Bal­lan­tyne said the club’s main aim is to con­cen­trate on get­ting to the end of the sea­son but ad­mit­ted it will be a “dif­fi­cult year” un­less some­one with a “big wal­let” comes for­ward.

He stated that there were no of­fers on the ta­ble and de­clined to re­veal how much the club was val­ued at.

The chair­man did point out that M& H Lo­gis­tics, Wother­spoon’s com­pany, are owed a “sub­stan­tial amount” by Air­drieo­ni­ans. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity share­holder is dis­barred from tak­ing it out as legally it would be a “pref­er­en­tial distri­bu­tion” and “would make the com­pany in­sol­vent”.

He told the well- at­tended meet­ing that sea­son tick­ets are set to go on sale and that the club will be­gin the process of search­ing for a new “ex­pe­ri­enced” man­ager “at our level” – stat­ing it will now be “busi­ness as usual”.

When asked about sales of the likes of Ro­han Fer­gu­son and Andy Ryan, he said that they were like ev­ery club in Scot­land and ev­ery player has their price. He said they had re­fused two “de­risory” bids al­ready this sum­mer.

Bal­lan­tyne said he hoped the club would be able to take ad­van­tage of the loan mar­ket to strengthen the squad as they “as a board are not happy with the level of pres­sure put on our young ap­pren­tices’ shoul­ders”.

He ad­mit­ted at the be­gin­ning of last week he had taken time for “a fair bit of con­tem­pla­tion and had to think if I could take this any fur­ther” af­ter a gap in cash­flow meant the club were on the brink of fold­ing.

He said: “The club was at threat. We could have gone into ad­min­is­tra­tion, but po­ten­tially liq­ui­da­tion,” he told the room.

“We filled in with the Trust guys and set to work to see what we could do to keep the club go­ing.

“The big­gest prob­lem is the wages are paid monthly. When we were in charge they were paid weekly be­cause it’s eas­ier to find a few grand for a one-off rather than 10, 15 or 25 grand.

“We were sit­ting on a hugely dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, the term for it is wrong­ful trad­ing, whereby we con­tinue to trade and take money off peo­ple know­ing you don’t have a plan to con­tinue. We were look­ing down the bar­rel of that.

“We had meet­ings with the Trust and there were var­i­ous dis­cus­sions about how we could gen­er­ate that money.

“How­ever, we couldn’t start tak­ing money for sea­son tick­ets, or from any spon­sors, be­cause we could be held per­son­ally li­able.

“So, it’s been pretty s*** ac­tu­ally. Over the last week or so we have man­aged to make some progress.”

He con­tin­ued: “There wasn’t enough money to pay the wages but my­self and Ann Marie [Bal­lan­tyne, club sec­re­tary] put money in to pay it and ev­ery con­tract was hon­oured.

“That gives us the breath­ing space to get mov­ing.

“We are try­ing des­per­ately to get to a break-even sit­u­a­tion. We are al­most there but it isn’t pretty.

“With the play­ers that are reg­is­tered, and not hav­ing a man­ager, we are break­ing even.

“The test we have is we need to gen­er­ate new in­come streams and that’s the big chal­lenge.

“We feel we have got it into such a state that we can now go for­ward.

“When Tom [ Wother­spoon] came in he was full of great ideas. We needed some­one with big­ger and bet­ter re­sources that ours and Tom had that. It just didn’t click for him.

“We should be fur­ther for­ward for the money we have spent but we are where we are.”

He added: “We are ask­ing to get peo­ple to rally round.

“We have to be able to se­cure fund­ing to get play­ers in – and we need play­ers in let’s not kid our­selves.”

Over the last week or so we have man­aged to make some progress

Test­ing times For Air­drie chair­man Jim Bal­lan­tyne

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